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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy photo Dan Serafini, owner and lead instructor of Ottoki Martial Arts in Churubusco, is a fifth-degree black belt in Shorin-ryu. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017 1:00 am

Martial arts master among us

Expert to share wisdom in Churubusco seminar

Josh Patterson | For The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: Pyramid Karate Association Seminar

When: 1-4 p.m. today

Where: Ottoki Martial Arts, 7490 East 550 North, Churubusco

More info: Instructors from Shorin-ryu, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu and other styles of karate will speak and train at the event. Indiana native Stephen Van Camp, an 8th degree black belt in Shorin-ryu, will serve as featured speaker. Event is open to the public, with a cost of $25 to attend.

Stephen Van Camp discovered his two lifelong passions in high school – riding motorcycles and martial arts. As an eighth-degree black belt in the Shorin-ryu style of karate, he's turned the latter into a professional kickboxing career and a 30-year career with the Department of Defense, where he has trained thousands of soldiers.

With the Department of Defense, his travels afforded him the opportunity to further both passions all over the world. Van Camp's next excursion will bring him to Churubusco, where he will serve as the lead instructor at the Pyramid Karate Seminar, hosted by Ottoki Martial Arts.

“When Mr. Van Camp is in the area, his direct students and the people that work out underneath his direct students really try to assemble whenever possible to spend time with him,” Ottoki Martial Arts founder Dan Serafini said.

Serafini, a fifth-degree black belt in Shorin-ryu, started training in the martial arts in 1990 at Lions Academy, which operated two taekwondo schools in North Webster and Syracuse. Van Camp, who ran Pyramid Karate in Indianapolis at the time, served as one of the judges at Serafini's black belt test in 1993.

Out of the test, their relationship grew, and Serafini started making trips to Indianapolis every 2 to 3 weeks to train at Pyramid. He was drawn to Shorin-ryu's emphasis on close-range self-defense and explosive movements, compared to the heavy kicking focus of taekwondo.

“One of Mr. Van Camp's favorite expressions is Shorin-ryu is like fighting in a phone booth,” Serafini said. “With this style of Shorin-ryu, there's an efficiency of motion. It makes for quicker motions, and you're quicker on your feet. It's made to move around and engage with attacks.”

Soon after, Van Camp was hired by the Department of Defense to train soldiers, ultimately through crafting training techniques for the military, first at Fort Harrison in Indianapolis before moving to Fort Benning, Georgia, and finally Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Serafini continued to train in both taekwon do and Shorin-ryu, earning his fourth-degree black belt in 2010 in taekwondo. Van Camp compared Serafini's proficiency in both styles to that of an effective communicator.

“The bigger vocabulary you have, the more eloquently you can speak,” Van Camp said. “The more moves you have, if you have an opportunity to move in different positions, or put them in a hold, you have many more techniques available to you.”

Opening in 2013, Ottoki Martial Arts was founded as a taekwondo school, although Serafini has since established a second program rooted in Shorin-ryu.

“There's a degree of separation, but at the end of the day we're trying to bring elements together to make sure we're offering a solid self-defense program,” Serafini said.

The school has also started offering women's self-defense seminars, which Serafini hopes to turn into a bimonthly program. It's all part of a plan for steady, controlled growth of the school as a whole.

“We started modestly so that we didn't have to have a large enrollment to feed the machine,” Serafini said. “We're going to build a great program and offer great value. I don't think we have a huge school, but we have a very solid, very loyal base.”

And while Van Camp won't be riding his motorcycle up to today's seminar, he still gets to share his passion for the martial arts with Serafini once again.

“The best thing I can do is make (my students) better people,” Van Camp said. “That's one of the best compliments I can get. When they talk about Dan, I know he's good at karate, but the biggest compliment is when I hear he's a good person.”